Three weeks into the 2022/23 La Liga season, the Santiago Bernabeu is yet to witness the defending champions in the heart of Madrid. Real Madrid have been sent on away trips for the first two games, and will now travel to Catalonia to lock horns against Espanyol tonight.
David Alaba’s individual brilliance rescued Madrid for the first game against UD Almeria, but brazed past Celta Vigo, registering a 1-4 win. Luka Modric was on top of his game, as always, registering a goal and an assist in 77 minutes.
This game, last season, ended in defeat for Los Blancos as Raul de Tomas and Aleix Vidal rippled the net. Tonight, though, things could be different. But first, let us take a look at how Carlo Ancelotti could set his team up for this outing.
Surprisingly, Thibaut Courtois had a lot more work against Almeria than Celta, making five saves. Unfortunately, his efforts in either game were not enough to register his first clean sheet of the season. Can he flip his fortunes around today?
Much of that will also rely on the centre-backs screening him. David Alaba was subbed off early last weekend, and will likely take his place alongside Eder Militao in the heart of the backline.
Flanking them, we will see Daniel Carvajal on duty again as the right-back. With Alvaro Odriozola injured, Carvajal is competing with just Lucas Vazquez for the role.
Ferland Mendy is the only natural left-back in Real Madrid’s roster for tomorrow. He did well to guard Iago Aspas in Vigo, and will have to be on top of his game against the in-form Ruben Sanchez Saez.
We should get to see Toni Kroos back in action tomorrow, starting in his natural role, as the left-sided central midfielder. The German missed the action vs Celta due to poor health, but will be hoping to pick up where he left off after a brilliant display vs Almeria.
Luka Modric has been used sparingly by Ancelotti right now, with the Croatian registering just 120 minutes of action. Following the same pattern, we expect Eduardo Camavinga to retain his spot in the XI, this time alongside Kroos.
Aurelien Tchouameni rounds off the midfield trident as the lone 6 for the third game in a row. He adapted to Real Madrid quickly, averaging two chances created per game, along with a bucket full of defensive contributions.
Karim Benzema has set awfully high standards for himself in the last two seasons. So high that a goal and assist to start the 2022/23 season is seen as underwhelming.
To be fair, though, he has not looked as sharp in front of goal, but these troubles won’t last long enough for him, as he should get the nod as the striker tonight.
On the contary, Vinicius Jr. has picked up where he left off last season. He was on target against Celta in the second half, and soon added assisted Federico Valverde for Madrid’s fourth. He is expected to start on the left-wing.
Rodrygo is just returning from an injury, while Marco Asensio has a foot out of Real Madrid already. Therefore, it should give Valverde another shot at the right-wing after back-to-back solid displays.
Vinicius · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Tchouameni · Camavinga
Mendy · Alaba · Militao · Carvajal
Rodrygo and Modric will likely be two of the first players off the bench vs Espanyol; that is, if they do not start.
Antonio Rudiger has received 110 minutes worth of playing time at Real Madrid already, and will, in all likelihood, continue in that capacity.
Vazquez and Eden Hazard are in contention to come off the bench, too. The latter missed a penalty against Celta, which does not help his confidence, but the former has been solid in both his appearances so far, scoring a goal during the opener.
UFC Champion to kick off Real Madrid vs Sevilla, sends message to Mbappe: “Lucky to play for the best club in the world”
Coming on the back of his triumph at UFC, Featherweight champion Ilia Topuria has announced he will take honorary kick-off in the upcoming Real Madrid vs Sevilla in La Liga this weekend.
Topuria confirmed this in a recent press conference in the Spanish capital this midweek.
A self-proclaimed Madridista, Topuria expressed his deep connection with the club and even sent a message to Kylian Mbappe, who is widely expected to join the club on a free transfer this summer.
Ilia Topuria: A hardcore Madridista
Ilia Topuria did not hold back his affection for Real Madrid, stating, “For me, the team that represents the values of Spain the most is Real Madrid.”
The Georgian-Spaniard UFC champion went on to confirm that he will meet Florentino Perez on Sunday and take the kick-off.
“I’m going to meet Florentino Perez on Sunday and take the kick-off,” he said (h/t Mundo Deportivo).
Although born in Germany, Topuria made Spain proud last Saturday when he beat Alexander Volkanovski in the second round. In the process, he became the first fighter from Spain to capture a UFC belt.
Topuria’s triumph has granted him overnight success in Spain, with the 27-year-old even becoming a cultural icon for many.
Topuria’s message for Mbappe
Other than professing his love for Real Madrid, Ilia Topuria also had a message for Mbappe.
When asked about the Frenchman potentially joining Real Madrid this summer, he said, “Welcome. He’s lucky to play for the best club in the world.”
Real Madrid, for their part, also congratulated Topuria on his triumph. “Congratulations on your historic triumph for Spanish sport, Ilia Topuria. We are proud that a great Real Madrid fan like you becomes UFC world champion,” the club posted on X.
Real Madrid fans, meanwhile, will be excited to witness Topuria taking the honorary kickoff as Los Blancos take on Sevilla this weekend, with three crucial points on the line.